It’s safe to say that in the U.S. that your drinking water is treated, filtered, and safe for consumption. After all, with the advancements in water treatment chemicals and the governing rules of the EPA the water you receive at home is guaranteed to be potable. Even though our water is at a clean and safe level the spread of waterborne diseases is still a threat, and the EPA continues to study and research to find more ways to protect public health by ensuring that there are fewer contaminants in our drinking water.
In January of this year, the EPA introduced a new rule to the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule. This rule requires that water systems be monitored for levels of cryptosporidium. Its purpose is to improve the quality of drinking water and to reduce the number of illnesses caused by crypto and other disease causing microorganisms that may be present in drinking water as well as uncovered finished water reservoirs.
Cryptosporidium is often present in systems in which the E-coli results of a total coliform bacteria test exceed the specified concentration level. The results of the total coliform bacteria test are used as the primary indicator of the water’s potability.
The microscopic parasites of cryptosporidium cause the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis. In recent years, recreational water facilities have been implicated in several outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis. Crypto is transmitted into the water via fecal material from humans or animals. Young children are extremely susceptible to contracting cryptosporidiosis from a contaminated recreational water supply since they often swallow quantities of water while swimming. In addition, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are also a great risk if crypto is contracted.
The cryptosporidium parasites create a challenge when trying to keep water clean and disinfected since the parasites are resistant to many chemical disinfectants including chlorine. Filtration is currently the only conventional method of removing crypto from water supplies. Sand filtration has proven to work the best. The water is disinfected after filtration and then it is deemed consumable.
The monitoring of large water systems, those servicing at 100,000 people, for cryptosporidium will begin in October of this year according to the EPA’s LT2 Rule. Smaller systems, which service less than 10,000 people, will not be required to begin monitoring until October 2008. This monitoring is an extension of current regulations and it will increase the level of protection over drinking water supplies.